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Dive Review of Rocio del Mar in
Mexico (Western)/Sea of Cortez

Rocio del Mar: "Sea of Cortez in the Wake of Odile", Sep, 2014,

by Mark Kimmey, NY, US (Contributor Contributor 13 reports with 4 Helpful votes). Report 8005.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 110’ long, 25’ beam, custom-built for diving rather than a retrofit, and specifically made to handle the trip out to the Socorros, which is a 26-hour crossing from San Jose del Cabo. The boat has a bulbous bow and is additionally stabilized with outrigger trolling plates. She hosts 20 divers in 10 cabins (only 18 this trip).

“Head Out to Rocky Point” shuttles divers from Phoenix to the Rocio del Mar at Puerto Penasco, stopping in Ajo for lunch and collection of fares, then crossing the border at Lukeville. The border crossing there is smooth both ways, takes only a couple of minutes and was certainly not the goat-rope you expect when you go through between San Diego and Tijuana. There are two DHS checkpoints on Hwy 85 north of the border crossing, by the way.

We had heard that the Rocio del Mar was a serious diver’s boat: durable, comfortable without a lot of unnecessary frills, a know-what-you’re-about sort of thing, and that was pretty accurate. I wouldn’t advise non-divers or snorkelers to tag along on this one. Passages are tight, especially the access to the ladder going down to the galley and mess/dining room one deck below what we came to think of as the “main” deck, on which both the dive deck and all but two of the passenger cabins were found. Having the galley and dining room as low as possible was great: it was far more stable being below the waterline, and the galley was by far the most impressive I’ve seen on a liveaboard, certainly the largest, and the cook, Pancho, created some excellent meals for us there.

Drinks are included, beer and wine were normally served with dinner and were available at other times if you were finished diving for the day. A liquor cabinet in the “TV room” was adequately stocked.

The boat generates potable freshwater, but the crew advises against drinking it from the faucets, recommending instead that we drink bottled water or fill provided covered tumblers from dispensers on the dive deck and in the dining room. They even recommended against using it for brushing teeth.

Cabins are tight. We had one of the two cabins forward, complete with an odd, trapezoidal-shaped double bed that sloped up toward the bow. The mattress is of the “memory foam” type, where you sink in and I’ll bet it’s pretty comfortable for the crossing to the Socorros. Pillows were decent, better than most of those we find on liveaboards.

There is very little hanging space, maybe as a way to discourage divers from taking wet skins and suits in. However, our cabin had seven wrought iron hooks spread between a wall and the back of the bathroom door (one of which had punched a hole through the sheetrock bulkhead), and another three inside the bathroom. Two deep drawers under the bed flanked cabinet doors into a large crawlspace and were adequate for most things, though the crew expected us to use that space for our luggage. That might have worked if it wasn’t already being used for storage of extra pillows and blankets, way more than for just our cabin. An additional cabinet held life preservers – more than just the two we needed, and there wasn’t room for anything else in there.

Forced air ventilation is nice (air conditioning!), and temperature is controlled by adjusting the vent to allow more or less air. The only exit are exit vents in the cabin door, however: there are no vents in the bathroom door, so when that door is closed everything inside (towels, swimsuits, whatever) stays damp. There is no way to latch open the bathroom door, which features a 6” knee-knocker. If you are straddling it with one foot in the cabin and one in the bathroom, the bottom of the door is in just the right place to smack an ankle or shin when it swings shut unexpectedly: that’s an ouch.

Without ventilation, the bathroom can get a little close. Bars in the shower would be nice, too: it got a little too exciting in there on occasion when the boat pitched or rolled and there was nothing to grab hold of. Additionally, the shower drain was in the center of the stall and not the lowest part of the shower floor: since the floor slopes we had to use our hands to squeegee water uphill toward the drain. Our sink leaked and we discovered the hose underneath was wrapped in duct tape. Finally, vapor traps could be installed to minimize the sewer gas odor we sometimes got from the sink and shower drains.

All toilet paper goes into waste basket and not down the toilet, but this is not uncommon. Extra rolls off paper were often parked on the windowsill, which was a bad idea when the floor was wet.

There were sufficient 110 volt outlets in the cabins for our needs.

On the dive deck are 16 standing diver stations running fore and aft, plus four sitting stations that run across the beam directly above the swim step. There’s not a lot of room between someone sitting down and the end of the standing rack on either side, which results in a lot of “excuse me” as people try to move around. The deck overall is cramped.

We got lucky and pulled two stations on the starboard side, in front of the ladder that goes up to the next deck, which we didn’t have to share with anyone since we were short two divers. Below the tanks are racks for fins, and a shelf above has hooks for masks and towels. The shelf itself is large enough for some odds and ends, but no real storage space like we’ve enjoyed on other boats. The standing stations were a bit high for us, and my dive buddy strained her back having to stretch up to lift her rig out of the rack: a sitting station would have been better but had already been claimed before we discovered the problem.

Towels are provided on the dive deck at each station, and are replaced mid-week.

Three rinse buckets sit on the swim step, one each for suits, masks and cameras, labeled appropriately and people were pretty good about observing what went where. Two showers on the step put out adequate water, and quite warm.

The head on the dive deck is somewhat cramped, and there didn’t seem to be a place to hold an extra roll of paper, which was perched precariously on the windowsill. Same problem in the cabins, so when the first wave pitched the roll to the wet floor, well, so much for that roll.

I raised an eyebrow that there was no calibration tank for the nitrox analyzer, and since everyone was diving nitrox it wasn’t possible to sponge off someone’s regular air tank. This is not, however, the first time we’ve seen this.

An extensive general diving brief was conducted in the dining room (mess) the first morning out, but there was no boat safety brief provided other than advice of off-limits areas and a recommendation to go down ladders (stairs) backwards. That’s especially good advice for the ladder down into the dining room as it’s steep and narrow. There was no mention of emergency signals on board, responses or muster stations. There was also no mention of using Lifeline radios (we carry our own), but when asked we were advised of the boat’s chat channel, used by the boat to talk to the panga drivers.

Divemasters provide separate dive site brief for each group: the manifest is split into “A” and “B,” but they let the divers work it out on a sign-up board. They ring a bell 15 minutes before each dive, but in that time they expect you to suit up and attend the dive briefing, which is done in the narrow space between the aft end of the camera table and the sitting stations. If you are in the second group to dive, showing up a little early to suit up just means you defeat the purpose of having two groups in the first place: what they really need is more time between groups. Assigning dive stations after groups are formed, alternating between A and B would help prevent divers from being immediately next to each other while rigging up, which causes problems as the space between stations really is too tight.

Following the site briefing, the group boards a panga for the ride to the actual site: we did not see any diving from the swim step. The crew is most helpful, getting divers down the ladders, handing fins to you once you are seated. This was almost a problem one time when we showed up early to suit up – we take a little more time and were trying not to delay our group getting away in the panga – and a crewman assumed we were going out in the first boat and so grabbed our fins.

Visibility varied wildly. The recent storms had washed a lot of nutrients (guano) off the rocks, which combined with the sun sent plankton production into overdrive. This in turn triggered mating activity and some sites were so dense with larval fish that visibility was extremely limited, maybe five to ten feet.

Most dives were in current, usually mild, but on occasion just plain ripping. Be prepared.

After diving, you hand cameras, weight belts and BCs to the panga driver, then climb in via a side-mounted ladder. Upon return to the boat, they ask that you exit the panga onto the swim step and they do the rest of the unloading. That’s nice on one’s back, but it bypasses the opportunity to get a quick freshwater rinse over your rig at one of the two showers on the platform. I used a hose on the dive deck (hot water!) to rinse our BCs about mid-week.

There did not appear to be a PA system on board, which makes announcements problematic – such as when a special opportunity arose to chase a dolphin pod, or when they had a change in schedule, such as when they decided to combine members of both groups and go out early. If we hadn’t shown up early we would have missed the dive.

On the final full day of our trip we snorkeled with whale sharks in the Bahia de los Angeles, which can be a bit murky. We attributed this and the large amount of floating trash to be yet more gifts from the recent hurricanes. Park rules require local boats and drivers, so we had a couple of fiberglass launches take us down into the bay, proper. Since you can patrol quite a bit before you find the whales, you really want hats, shades and sunblock for this part of the ride. In our case one of the boats had a bikini top, for which we were grateful. Each launch carried a divemaster from the Rocio del Mar, and park restrictions allow no more than four swimmers per divemaster in the water at a time. This is actually not a problem, as you can get winded quickly trying to keep up with the whales once you find them: taking turns in the water is a good thing. We cruised back and forth across the bay for a while before spotting our first whale shark, and then we hardly went a minute or two before seeing another. At one point I think we had three in motion around us, including one that came up to the boat and shook its head at us, its mouth out of the water. Tipping the whale shark boat drivers is expected, by the way, so remember to have cash with you when you board: the Rocio del Mar crew can advise you on appropriate amounts.

Overall, the Rocio del Mar is well-run, adequately organized. It’s not the tightest operation I’ve ever seen, but the crew knows its stuff, know its boat, and they have a style that works for them: they are top-notch, exhibit a lot of hustle and are very kind when you ask a stupid question. They also prefer tips in U.S. dollars.

One thing that concerned me was the large hatch into the engine room from the swim step: I’m not sure it actually seals properly. When weather got rough and we were taking waves onto the platform, I helped one of the crewmen push on the door from the outside while someone inside tried to dog the hatch. It looked to me that only the latch at the bottom of the door was actually mated, the top of the door stuck out a bit and I suspect there was a gap there. I examined it later and it appeared that the top and bottom hinges aren’t aligned, or maybe the door got twisted somehow.
Websites Rocio del Mar   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving New York, Hawaii, California, Kwajalein, Florida, Grenada, Bonaire, Caymans, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Belize, Mexico, Australia
Closest Airport Phoenix, AZ Getting There You're pretty much at the mercy of US Airways from most of the United States, and flight options from the East Coast aren't the greatest. Shop around, be prepared to stay overnight in Phoenix coming or going, hopefully not both.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas currents
Water Temp 80-85°F / 27-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 10-40 Ft/ 3-12 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Daylight dives are strictly limited to 60 minutes, nighttime to 50: necessary and even courteous because it’s not fair for divers who exit the water early to have to wait in the hot sun for the few amphibians. The recommendation for sunblock, hats and sunglasses on the pangas is a good one.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks > 2
Turtles > 2 Whales > 2
Corals N/A Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Large, well-appointed camera table on the dive deck, with air hoses and plenty of light.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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